If you’ve spent much time around a group of children at this curious, exploratory, emotional and perceptive age, you might think that high staff-to-toddler ratios are designed to reign in all that energy.
But in Montessori school, it’s the opposite.
The Montessori learning model is quite different than the mainstream model, and the teacher-to-toddler ratio is actually designed to give children more freedom, not less. Legally, we are required to maintain a 1:7 staff to toddler ratio, but Montessori prefers a 1:5 ratio, with no more than 12 children in the room.
Why is the Montessori teacher-student ratio designed this way?
In Montessori school, the Guide works with the children in a collaborative experience, as opposed to the teacher-led format that is used in traditional schools.
Children learn at their own pace in Montessori, following their own interests and teaching themselves using materials provided to them without time constraint. Again, this is different than a traditional classroom, where students follow a set curriculum and timeline that are implemented by the teacher.
The difference in approach is reflected in a shift in language: at Montessori school, we don’t use the word “teacher”, we use “guide” instead. This is because we truly see the guide as just that: an advisor who leads the way without commanding or controlling.
In the toddler classroom at White Bear Montessori, you will find:
- A guide whose first priority is giving presentations to the children in the classroom. The guide is responsible for each toddler’s development: social, emotional, character and academic.
- An assistant who is also trained in Montessori and whose role is to support the guide
- One or two aides who float between classrooms, helping with background details like laundry, assisting with naps, cleaning up messy work and lending a hand at lunchtime
How does this ratio affect toddler learning?
This model of learning and the oversight that goes along with it has been intentionally designed to meet the needs of toddlers. Often, we envision the learning we want for our toddlers as starting with their ABCs and 123s, but in Montessori we believe it is so much more than that.
When children are toddlers, traditional classrooms might successfully teach them to repeat letters and numbers. Understanding what numbers are and that they are sequential, for example, is entirely different. To develop a true understanding of these foundational concepts, Montessori moves away from rote learning and provides applications in the real world, introducing concepts in a way that children can better understand (like showing them and referencing one towel, two cups or three books, for example). This aligns with what they are capable of truly understanding at this age.
The guide is there not to educate toddlers on a set of pre-determined subjects, but to provide avenues through which the child can have their own experiences and develop the ability to make discoveries on their own.
I can tell you that both of my children's experience in Toddler has led them to read chapter books at the age of five as well as complete multiplication and division math problems with 4-digit numbers - all by the end of their Kindergarten year in Children's House. Although it may not feel or look like an academic approach to education, it actually produces better results than traditional methods of education. As a public school student myself, I can tell you I didn't do some of the math problems that my 2nd grader does - until I was in middle school. No joke.
At WBMS, we believe that is how learning—and a love of learning— is developed and nurtured.
If this environment sounds like a good fit for your family, contact our Head of School to learn more about the Toddler classroom here at White Bear Montessori School.